Friday, June 02, 2017

India should work with China on OBOR for its own economic benefit

India should know that the OBOR scheme is not about CPEC and Pakistan; but in fact its primary goal is to integrate the rich European economy with that of China’s.

President Xi Jinping has just hosted a mega show to sell China’s massive Eurasian connectivity scheme, known variously as the One Belt One Road (OBOR), or the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), to the world. Present at the occasion were presidents and prime ministers, and leaders of other parts of the world and, more disconcertingly, our neighbouring countries as well.


If you get the impression that India was isolated in its boycott of the meeting, you are not wrong. But this has been an avoidable injury. The basis of New Delhi’s rigid opposition to OBOR has never been quite clear. Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in March 2016, foreign secretary S Jaishankar had implicitly criticised China for building connectivity without “consultative processes,” and hardwiring the choices for its participants.

Subsequently, New Delhi raised the issue of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through POK. Last week, in listing out his objections to the scheme, official spokesman Gopal Baglay said that “no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
But this sounded more of a pretext to oppose OBOR than anything else; India has never seriously sought the return of Gilgit-Baltistan and has wanted the LoC as an international boundary.
Actually a lot of the hardwiring is already done. 2017 will see over 2,000 trains (estimated) travel from a dozen Chinese cities to over 20 European destinations on newly built lines and tunnels in Central Asia. Pipelines and railroads have already shifted the economic orientation of the region from Russia to China. South-east Asia is undergoing a similar process through new rail lines overlaying the traditional maritime routes. In the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Chinese companies have built, are building and, in many cases, operating, ports in (Kyaukpyu) Myanmar, (Hambantota) Sri Lanka, (Gwadar) Pakistan, (Bagamayo) Tanzania, (Lamu) Kenya. As part of this, China has made strategic investments in central and eastern Europe as well.
It is important to understand what OBOR is and what it is not. Its primary goal is to integrate the rich European economy with that of China, not about CPEC and Pakistan, which are just sideshows of the ambitious scheme.

The shorter term goal is for China to emerge as the dominant regional power in its neighbourhood, where it is already the leading economic presence. Linked to this is the compulsion of protecting Chinese maritime commerce, particularly oil, in the IOR.
India lacks the resources to match China’s ambitious plans for Eurasia, but it is directly affected by Chinese money pouring into its neighbourhood and the marked surge in Chinese naval activity in the IOR since 2014. Beijing has now established a base in the Djibouti and you can be sure that Gwadar, is a Chinese naval facility in all but name. And this is just the beginning.
After connectivity, Beijing is moving on the second leg of its strategy – an economic policy to make China a developed country. For this China intends to sit at the top of the global manufacturing value chains instead of being a low-level aggregator. Beijing is investing hundreds of billions of dollars to gain the global pole position in areas like integrated circuits, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, bio-pharma, electrical cars and so on. The European connection is the key to this, since high-end products need a rich market.

A major problem with the Indian response is that it concentrates exclusively on the geopolitical leg of OBOR—Pakistan, Sri Lanka and so on. But the scheme is primarily about geo-economics. By staying out of it, India risks being systematically frozen out of business opportunities in an enlarging area that is integrating with the Chinese economy around the world.
India cannot stop the scheme, but it can hamper it in many ways. We are not without clout in our region, and we possess a vast and growing market for Chinese products. India’s geographical location is a huge advantage, especially for the maritime leg of the scheme in the IOR
These factors can be parlayed into a hard-headed negotiation with the Beijing to insist that the benefits of participating in OBOR must be shared. But, first, New Delhi needs to stop whining and learn to cherry-pick the OBOR menu.
True, it is a Chinese scheme, funded by their banks and largely executed by Chinese companies. But Beijing now realises that it is too big and complex to be done on its own. If China is open to working with other countries, as Xi’s speech seemed to suggest, it may yet be possible to get them to understand how their favourite phrase “win-win” cooperation can really be win win.
Hindustan Times May 17, 2017

India’s Snub to China on OBOR: Unwise to Ignore Economic Interests

Out to isolate Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, India finds itself isolated in the bigger game reshaping the geopolitical map of the world. China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ scheme will have momentous consequences, yet New Delhi has refused to even engage China on the issue by staying out of the Belt and Road Forum that took place in Beijing on Sunday and Monday.
The Chinese work on long-range plans; many of their achievements of today are a result of the effort that has gone into them in the past thirty years. Take Shenzen, the greenfield city that today powers China’s economy. It began as a rural backwater opposite Hong Kong on the mainland 40 years ago. Or, the six Chinese high tech zones – which started with a dozen or so establishments in the 1990s and today typically feature 30-40,000 businesses, including the leading companies of the world.

Why is China Seeking an Economic Embrace?

What does this have to do with OBOR? Everything. Having achieved the status of the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter, China is now in the process of transforming itself once again. The benchmarks are 2021, the centenary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party of China, and 2049, which will mark hundred years of the People’s Republic of China. The first involves the doubling of the GDP as of 2010, and making China a “moderately prosperous society”, and the second is to take China to the level of a “moderately developed country”, which means a per capita GDP of $55,000.
To achieve this, China needs to maintain an annual per capita growth rate of at least 6.3 percent till 2021 and 5.8 percent through 2049. Both these are daunting targets and China is facing severe challenges in meeting them, in part because of the headwinds of the global economy, and, in part, the excesses of the past, which include over-investment, overcapacity in certain industries, and indebted state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on 15 May 2017. (Photo: AP)
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on 15 May 2017. (Photo: AP)
China can no longer depend on an investment and export driven model. Instead, it must enhance domestic consumption and enhance productivity through innovation-driven growth. This is where OBOR comes in.
Using its vast monetary reserves to invest in developing infrastructure and economies around its periphery, China is simultaneously seeking to get rid of its excess capacity in areas like steel and cement while drawing large swathes of its neighbourhood into a closer economic embrace.

Raising the Stakes

The actual Chinese target is Europe with its affluent economy, high levels of technology and lifestyle products that the Chinese middle class crave for. China is reaching out to the affluent West through high-speed rail links and enhanced maritime connectivity.
Simultaneously, China is upgrading its own industrial capacities through R&D and acquisitions. In the past year, China has acquired the Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta and the world’s foremost automotive robotics company, KUKA. It has spent over $150 billion in acquiring companies in the area of integrated circuits or chips, though in the past year, the regulators have prevented companies like Micron, Western Digital, AIXTRON and Toshiba from selling their chip businesses to China.
Western assessments are that in areas like artificial intelligence, biotech and electric cars, Chinese technology, backed by an enormous amount of government funding, is already amongst the best in the world.

Distracted by Pakistan

We in India are distracted by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the activities of China in Sri Lanka, and are taking our eye off the ball in the main game. The Indian Ocean activity is a side-show, albeit understandably important for India because it’s in our neighbourhood and its military elements are all too clearly visible.
OBOR is a Chinese national project, aimed at fulfilling Chinese goals.
The government of India cannot but formally protest the CPEC going through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. But the tone and tenor suggests that, perhaps, we are protesting too much.
And that the remonstrations are a pretext to adopt a needlessly confrontationist stand against China. At least thrice in the past 70 years, India has been willing to formalise a border along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir, so to make out that Chinese projects in Gilgit-Baltistan are the cause of Indian ire is to truly miss the wood for the trees.
A security official walks by a pagoda at the Yanqi Lake International Conference Center, where the Belt and Road Forum was being held, in Beijing on 15 May 2017. (Photo: AP)
A security official walks by a pagoda at the Yanqi Lake International Conference Center, where the Belt and Road Forum was being held, in Beijing on 15 May 2017. (Photo: AP)

A Missed Opportunity

A more sophisticated policy would use OBOR for Indian purposes where it can. India cannot stop OBOR, neither can it ignore and nor will it be immune to its effects. While it’s true that pipelines and railroads hardwire a destination, ports do not, and can be used by anyone. If China promotes an economic zone in Sri Lanka or East Africa, Indian businesses are free to utilise them for their own ends.
India is a member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank. What is to stop it from seeking funding there to hardwire its own connectivity schemes to South-East Asia and across Iran to Europe?

Focus on Implementation of Projects

New Delhi has two problems — first, India’s own hopeless internal infrastructure, setting which right should be its priority. Second, it lacks the structure of capable state-owned enterprises which can execute projects in quick time. The 19.2-km Kamchiq tunnel in Uzbekistan built by the China Railway Tunnel Group was completed in 2016 in exactly three years, the 756-km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in five years by the China Railway Group. These are just random examples of the accomplishments of Chinese companies.
As far as India is concerned, the Chabahar scheme, the Kaladan Multimodal project and the International North South Transportation Corridor have been in the works since the 2000s and none of them are complete and the last-named has not even begun.

The same is the case with the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway project begun in 2001.
Beyond the issue of connectivity, India needs to up its economic game by doing more, rather than less planning. As we see, China’s achievements are a result of sophisticated planning by outfits like the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). A slogan a day like IT+IT=IT, or Smart cities, Start-up India, Make in India and so on, are not going to work. We need a sustained strategy of promoting economic growth and qualitatively better governance, and a dose of modesty.
The Quint May 15, 2017

Making sense of the recent flurry of Chinese offers on Kashmir

The Chinese offer to rename the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the latest manifestation of the new style of Chinese diplomacy. From the muscular assertion in the South China Sea, the waters of the Senkaku (Diayou) islands, and frozen wastes of Aksai Chin, Beijing seems to be taking a step back and learning to say “please”.
This was, in an intriguing way, also the message contained in a recent article in the party-owned Global Times suggesting that, maybe, China could mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.
For decades now, the Chinese position has been quite straight-forward, and, even from the Indian position, quite neutral. It has spoken of the need for the two countries to resolve the dispute through bilateral dialogue, even while refraining from actually suggesting a solution or a mediation.


A week ago, in an article, Hu Weijia, a reporter with the Global Times, wrote:
“Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.” 
Predictably the article created some waves in New Delhi.
But as the context of the article reveals, the writer has urged change not so much on behalf of its “iron brother” Pakistan, but Chinese self interest, as he went on to add:
“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, but that doesn’t mean Beijing can turn a deaf ear to the demands of Chinese enterprises in protecting their overseas investments.” 
Till now China had been advocating the idea of consensus-driven decision making, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and win-win outcomes. But as its economic remit spreads across the globe, its interests expand in regions which may be volatile or across regions where countries are locked in disputes where China may be forced to take sides.
As for Jammu & Kashmir, if it had wanted to do so, China could have simply supported the Pakistani claim anytime earlier, but the Chinese style in the past was to be cautious. The Chinese position on Jammu and Kashmir is set in the Sino-Pakistan Agreement of 1963 that established a border between them. It resulted in Pakistan ceding the Shaksgam Valley to China and receiving 1,942 kms in exchange.
The two sides agreed under Article 5 of the treaty that
 “after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the People’s Republic of China , on the boundary…. So as to sign a formal Boundary Treaty to replace the present agreement.” 
In other words, China did not endorse Pakistan’s claim to Jammu and Kashmir and has been open to the possibility of India re-establishing its claim.
In the 1965 war which was triggered by a Pakistani military grab for Jammu & Kashmir, China came out in support of Pakistan. Not so much the territorial claim, but plainly and simply to pull Islamabad’s burnt chestnuts out of the fire.

Chinese chequers

In the years since China has broadly maintained its stand of neutrality in the dispute, though, it has periodically played an intriguing game. One was the issuance of stapled visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir, including infamously the chief of the Northern Command headquartered in Udhampur. In 2010, they suddenly declared that the disputed Sino-Indian border, which by Indian count was 4,057 kms, was only 2,000 kms in length. In other words, they refused to count the Sino-Indian border in J-K as being Indian.
In fact back in 2009, there was another episode in which China offered to play a “constructive role” in what it agreed was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. “Kashmir is an issue that has been longstanding left from history,” Hu Zhengyue, the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs in-charge of Asia told some visiting journalists. “As a friend, China will be happy to see such progress (in India-Pakistan consultations) and we will be happy if we can play a constructive role in resolving of the issue, but after all it is a bilateral issue,” he noted.
Of course, that was a time when direct India-Pakistan talks were taking place, though this was just at the point when the Musharraf government was about to melt down because of its quarrel with the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court.
So, there are two compulsions now. First, that the dialogue between India and Pakistan is frozen and tensions are high all along the Line of Control. Second, China’s increasing commitment in Pakistan through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. And third, the pressure that it feels as the OBOR gets underway to play a role in resolving disputes and quarrels so as to ease the path of its connectivity plans.
For that reason, Hu’s article actually leads off from the recent Chinese mediation between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue. Now not many in India know that China has a key investment in the Rakhine state where the Rohingyas come from – this is the state where the port of Kyakpau is located and from where a pipelines are taking oil and gas to Kunming bypassing the Straits of Malacca. Stability in the region, therefore is as important for Myanmar, as it is for China now.
It is in this context that, as Hu noted, given its massive One Belt One Road investments, China had to abandon its long-held “principle of non interference in the internal affairs of other countries”. Indeed, China’s unique selling proposition used to be its claim that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of countries. So, it has conveneintly ignored the activities of despots like Robert Mugabe and the various Pakistani dictators.

Great power games

In Central Asia, it has to skirt between ethnic tensions involving the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs and Kyrgyzstan. The demands of OBOR do not make it easy to avoid the continuing rivalry between Saudi Arabia, from where China imports the largest amount of oil, and Iran, to which it has given the largest amount of foreign aid in the 2001-2014 period. The situation in Europe is no better. In the Balkans, where the Chinese companies are active, there are tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, Greece and Macedonia, Serbia and Albania and so on. An even bigger headache is the standoff between European Union, the key target of the One Belt One Road plan, and Russia, a critical Chinese ally, even if it is for the short term.
So China has to learn to play the role of a great power. While its economic clout gave it a certain ability to mediate, it still had to steer through the shoals of competing nationalisms and emotions, which are much more tougher to deal with, as other great powers have realised over time.
As it is, along with its desire to play a role as a benign global power, China is also caught in the dilemma posed by its own assertiveness vis-à-vis India on the border, or South-east Asian states in the South China Sea. In such circumstances, it can hardly afford to put itself forward as any kind of a mediator.
But the even bigger question comes from the possibility that to protect its growing business interests, like other global powers, China may be forced to send in its military to protect its interests and nationals. In recent times, this has already happened in the case of Libya and, more recently, Yemen. And as flag follows trade, an expansive perception of national interests could require military presence in far flung areas. This means bases, allies and the entire paraphernalia of a great power. The bases are already there in Djibouti and Gwadar and the navy is growing by the day.
As for Kashmir, we can’t foretell what a Chinese mediation will bring. As the history since 1947 reveals, the British, the Americans, the Russians and the United Nations have been there, done that– and failed. May 8, 2017

Comprehensive National Power

India needs a strategic effort to understand that it is no longer competing with China, but seeking to cope with an increasing asymmetry of power

 It is no secret that there’s a delay in India’s current cycle of military modernisation. Ask the services and they will vaguely claim that the cycle will be completed by 2022 or maybe 2027. The effort is to induct the contemporary range of armoured vehicles, artillery, fighter jets, submarines, frigates and so on. Given the decades taken to achieve this, these systems will almost immediately become obsolete and another delayed cycle will begin.
As long as an indigent Pakistan was the principal adversary, this caused no big worry. But we now inc­reasingly confront a risen China, whose plans work on schedule, and whose modernisation is relen­tlessly moving from copying western design and concepts towards leapfrogging to become technology leaders.

Comprehensive National Power

 In recent years, China has systematically built up its military, and also undertaken a deep reorganisation of its structure. This is aimed at creating a force that, as Xi Jinping is never tired of repeating, is loyal to the Communist Party of China and capable of fighting and winning wars. The reorganisation has led to an integrated military divided into geographical theatre commands mimicking in many ways the organisation of its principal adversary: the United States.

The modernisation is top to bottom—it begins with the nuclear forces, the bedrock of Beijing’s status as a world power, and goes right down to the maritime militias that are used to swamp fishing grounds in the South China Sea. The Chinese are simultaneously aiming to deny the US access to its mainland through the so-called A2/AD (anti-access area denial) syst­ems, and at the same time organising their own forces for greater regional and even extra-regional reach.
So, while China’s navy moves from offshore defence to regional capability, its air force is creating an integrated aerospace system for offensive and defensive operations beyond its borders. All this means a virtual assembly line of new generations of aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines, fighter aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles and associated systems. In all this, space is a key element for C4ISR—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveilla­nce and reconnaissance. We are talking here not of individual satellites, but constellations. So by 2020, the existing 30 Beidou navigation satellites will be replaced by 35 advanced versions. Already 40 Yaogan satellites move in a triplet formation providing ima­gery and electronic intelligence. By 2020, China will be able to obtain 30-minute updates from any part of the globe from 60 satellites including the Gaofen and Jilin series. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is also working on counter-space systems aimed at knocking out adversary satellites.

For years, the PLA used to talk about “informationised warfare” which was about digital systems and networks. Now, they are on the threshold of what analyst Elsa Kania says is the era of “intelligentised warfare” featuring artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud computing to enhance their C4ISR capabilities. The depth of the Chinese effort is obvious: many of the technologies now emerging are part of an effort undertaken under Project 863, begun in March 1986. Among these are boost glide vehicles, laser and high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. Earlier this year, young scientist Huang Wenhua received a nati­onal technology award for developing an HPM system for defending warships from anti-ship missiles.
Beyond the horizon is an array of even more drama­tic AI-based technologies, where China has emerged as a global leader—in quantum computing and communications and electromagnetic and pulsar propulsion in space. These have great military consequences, and in all of them, China has demonstrated a capacity, such as the launch last August of the world’s first quantum communications satellite Micius.
 But in the past few years, the challenge we have faced from China has been somewhat strange. There has been Pakistan, the “iron brother” that can always be counted on to keep India off balance, but we have also seen a handful of Chinese soldiers pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere in Aksai Chin in 2013, a disembodied voice warning INS Airavat in 2011 that it was in Chinese waters, when, in fact, it was in Vietnam’s EEZ, or, more recently, the invocation of a non-binding UN Resolution 1172 of 1998 demanding that India end the development of ballistic missiles, and the decision to rename six places in Arunachal Pradesh. This is a new kind of warfare involving psychological, legal and media elements. With both countries possessing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely that they will openly fight each other. But, warfare has many dimensions and the best victory is one that is obtained without fighting at all.
 Indeed, as Wu Chunqiu of the Academy of Military Sciences argued in 2000, “Victory without war does not mean that there is no war at all. The wars one must fight are political wars, economic wars, science and technology wars, diplomatic wars, etc. To sum up in a word, it is a war of Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Although military power is an important factor, in peacetime it usually acts as a backup force, and plays the role of invisible might.” What India must understand is that war is no longer about tanks and guns, but CNP. China has long had a fascination with the concept pioneered by Ray Cline of the CIA, who came up with an index based on the formula Pp = (C+E+M) x (S+W) in the 1960s. In the nuclear age, defeat and victory were about CNP, as the erstwhile Soviet Union realised, not its military arsenal.

 In Cline’s schema, Pp was perceived power, C was critical mass (population plus territory), E was economic capability, M stood for military strength, S was strategic purpose and W the will to pursue national strategy. Subsequently other indices came up, using even more refined variables.

The Chinese have never hidden their will to power. Where India has always wanted to be seen as a ‘Great Nation’, the Chinese are clear that they are once again destined to be a, if not the, ‘Great Power’. To that end, they are deploying a range of elements relating to hard and soft power, and the $1 trillion One Belt One Road scheme is its economic manifestation.
One of the key areas being pursued is STI—science, technology and innovation. In the next five years, the Chinese government alone will spend $250 billion in S&T and innovation. Its tech giants, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and others will spend several times this sum. The priority areas are quantum communications and computation, an arcane field that is difficult to even conceptualise, but whose implications are earth-shaking. In addition, focus remains on cyber security, deep-space exploration, robotics, materials, genetics, big data and brain research.

Hard power is used to control or coerce the behaviour of others, but equally vital are soft power, persuasion, leading by example and a sense of legitimacy.  Here authoritarian China does not have it easy, but it isn’t conceding anything. It is spending billions in winning friends and influencing people. Through institutions and schemes like the AIIB, NDB and the OBOR, it is expanding its remit to include Asia, parts of Europe and the Indian Ocean Region. Its media and culture outreach aims to present China in the best possible way to the international community.
The Chinese challenge is not about guns and submarines, though the disputed border and the Sino-Pak nexus signify the need to up our guard. It is about CNP, of which the military is an important element, but not the only one. We need a compound national strategic effort to enhance all the CNP elements. In the first stage, India needs to und­erstand that it is no longer competing with China, but seeking to cope with an increasing asymmetry of power. It should turn the Chinese strategy inside out by ringing itself with A2/AD defences and make up our military power deficit through effective coalitions and alliances.

It means a society working at a much higher level of efficiency than the one we have now. It means a different kind of a military, not the World War II kind of force we have today. But more important, we need a socially cohesive India, led by people with a constructive and forward-looking agenda. Most important, we need to understand that there are no shortcuts. What you see in China is what began 30 years ago.
Outlook May 15, 2017

Retaliating Is One Thing, Deterring Cross-Border Attacks From Pakistan is Another

If only some way could be found to target the BATs specifically, then some kind of a deterrent pressure could be built. As of now, the poor jawans who get killed are merely collateral damage.

There is a farcical debate going on about how India should deal with Pakistan on the beheading episode. Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, wants three heads. Ramdev, the yoga entrepreneur, wants 10.
The government is silent, though army chief Bipin Rawat has hinted at retaliation, saying that the army does not disclose its future plans, but that he will share the details after the execution of the Indian response.
There is one problem. That the Indian jawans were beheaded is known to the Indian authorities; presumably they have retained the photographic evidence, since the personnel were cremated in sealed caskets. The external affairs ministry’s spokesman Gopal Baglay said on Wednesday (May 3) that India had “actionable evidence,” which was the blood sample of the slain personnel and the trail of their blood going to the Pakistan side of the LoC.
Pakistan is predictably silent for the simple reason it knows that to even acknowledge what their so-called Border Action Teams (BAT) have done would be tantamount to a war crime. So, as far as they are concerned, they will claim that non-state actors – call them Kashmiri “freedom fighters” if you will – perpetrated the act, though it is well known that they got their covering fire from Pakistani army posts.
This is what poses a dilemma for the Indian side. To go and lop off 10 heads and then declare that you have done it would immediately bring the charge of committing a war crime on the Indian army. Considering its generally good record, it would be a blemish that will not go away easily.
Now it is not that Indian soldiers have not lopped off heads before, but they were done in covert operations that no one talked about. At the same time, the message was received by the people who were meant to receive it. Now, however, with the government tacitly encouraging the media to raise the demand for revenge to a fever pitch, it will not be enough if the army, say, a fortnight from now, simply issues a press statement saying that it has avenged the attack.
All that the Pakistani side will do is to simply claim that nothing has happened. That is what they did in the case of the ‘surgical strike’ that the Indian side announced. Even now, that strike is only an Indian claim, there is no collateral evidence, either from Pakistan or from the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan, which at least nominally monitors the border.
The bigger problem is that we do not know what it takes to deter such attacks on Indian troops. While the attacks are carried out by the Pakistani BATs – and any retaliation by the equally tough Indian Special Forces – the victims are ordinary soldiers on the LoC, either through ambushes or silent attacks. If only some way could be found to target the BATs specifically, then some kind of a deterrent pressure could be built. As of now, the poor jawans who get killed are merely collateral damage.
We do not even know what triggered the recent event. There is little doubt that it was a carefully staged operation directed by the Pakistan army. Maybe it was in retaliation for something our forces had done, or aimed at raising India-Pakistan temperatures further by forcing India to react. Perhaps it is linked to the possibility of an India-Pakistan meet at the sidelines of the SCO summit in July, speculation for which is rife ever since the visit to Muree of the Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal, who is said to enjoy the confidence of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. If it is the first, silence would have been a better option, and if it is the second, we need to remember the American adage – revenge is a dish best served cold.
If the goal of the assault and beheading was to derail an India-Pakistan détente, surely by now we ought to have learnt how to handle the Pakistani deep state which resorts to a provocation whenever there is a talk of peace between India and Pakistan.
This is a bizarre situation where India and Pakistan are being pushed to fight a war literally at two ends of the spectrum. At one end are ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and at the other are knives and fists. The middle ground of a good old-fashioned war with guns and tanks, which the two armies are raring to fight, seems to have become obsolete. The fist and knife war can go on indefinitely since it is not destructive enough. On the other extreme is the nuclear option after which there’ll be no one left to knife.
What is happening on the LoC is, as we noted, a farcical affair because all it is doing, as far as India is concerned, is to provide grist to the pseudo-nationalist mill. Instead of focusing on much more important tasks in nation building, it is feeding people on a diet of heightened and negative emotions, amplified by the TV channels.

The American novelist Norman Mailer once proposed, apropos the American belief that the Vietnam war was really a proxy war with the Chinese, that the two sides resolve the matter by both the US and China selecting their best army division and having them fight it out, face to face in the Brazilian jungle. Whoever won would be declared the winner of the larger war that was going on in Vietnam. In other words, if primal instincts needed to be assuaged, let it be done in the truly primeval style where combat was often ritualised.
The Wire May 6, 2017

Why it's dangerous for BJP government to assume it can resolve Kashmir crisis

The clearest indication that things on the ground are regressing in Jammu and Kashmir is the massive Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) launched in Shopian, the southern part of the Valley last week.
At the beginning of the militancy, such door-to-door operations were the norm, they were wasteful in terms of manpower and they obtained indifferent results. But there was little alternative to them since the J&K Police had melted down and local intelligence had dried up.

Square one
Subsequently, when the BSF G-Branch had developed a network of informants from turning captured militants, and the J&K Police had revived, such sweeps were wound up and instead, the security forces, often led by the state police’s Special Operations Group, resorted to intelligence-led operations that cause little collateral damage and virtually decimated the militant network in the Valley.

armybd1_050817100824.jpgArmy personnel during a search operation in Shopian district of Kashmir. (PTI) 
So, the indications are, that, at least in the southern part of the Valley, things are back to square one. Reports suggest that the local police has again melted and no local intelligence is coming through, and hence the massive brigade-level sweep. Just how retro things are, is evident from a comment by a retired general that maybe the time had come to once again use turned militants, Ikhwanis, to hunt down militants.
In these past weeks and months, for the first time in a long while, we have had international leaders saying that, maybe, there was need for mediation between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir.
First it was our own Nikki Haley who said that the Trump administration could play a role in de-escalating the India-Pakistan situation, then came Turkish President Erdogan who in a interview on the eve of his visit to New Delhi, called for “a multilateral dialogue” to settle the Kashmir issue. Now, we have even had a Global Times commentary noting that China “has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. “
Many Indians don’t realise that for the world community, J&K is not a closed chapter. It is just that, based on the India-Pakistan dialogues, the world community has felt that perhaps, it was best left to the two to sort out the problem. But if there is a feeling that there is no dialogue and things are escalating, then there will certainly be need for third–party intervention.
Skewed perception
All these years, despite continuous Pakistani interference, the J-K issue was slowly moving towards resolution. Militancy was declining and even Pakistan was signaling that, maybe, it could accept a compromise in which current borders would not change.
The big problem that we have today is that the BJP-led government has different ideas. It actually believes it can resolve the issue once and for all — liberate Pakistan occupied Kashmir, in particular Gilgit Baltistan, and bludgeon the dissidents in the Valley into submission.This is, if anything, a perfect example of hubris.


New Delhi believes that the factors responsible for the violence and tension in the Valley are entirely external. And there is little to be gained through internal dialogue. This is a skewed understanding of the situation. Pakistan is certainly responsible for pumping in men and money into the Valley, but they are able to get shelter and function because India has not been able to convince the locals that it has their welfare in its heart.

Flexible tactics
Last week, the key BJP interlocutor, speaking behind the screen of anonymity, ruled out all dialogue till the stone-pelting continued in the Valley. Referring indirectly to some comments by former NSA MK Narayanan and former RAW chief AS Dulat, he declared that they had “had enough time and opportunity to implement their ideas… Now it is our turn to get things in order. Let us handle the issue in the way we want.”
So the world, and the people of this country, must accept a strategy where the government deliberately allows the health of Jammu and Kashmir to deteriorate, claiming that this will effect a complete cure at the end. If this sounds like a quack cure, it probably is.
Past governments had a more modest approach, believing that all they could do was to manage the issue, not resolve it in the short term. To that end, they adopted multiple, but flexible tactics — talks with Pakistan, roundtables in the Valley, behind-the-scene dialogue with the separatists and so on.
This led to a slow and steady improvement of the conditions in the Valley. The search for the perfect solution is illusory, the best as is well known, is often the enemy of the good.
 Mail Today May 8, 2017